Columnist Lewis Gersh says it’s time to stop thinking of different marketing channels in isolation and focus on crafting a more integrated approach that gives consumers a complete and balanced marketing breakfast.
Remember “You’ve Got Mail”? Before it was a rom-com starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, it was an amiable AOL greeting accompanied by a cartoon mailbox.
It was a brilliant marketing opportunity. But it also created unintended consequences that continue to reverberate across the digital industry today.
We’ve seen this movie
The beauty of the “You’ve Got Mail” catchphrase was its simplicity. By appropriating established terminology and imagery, AOL eased the transition to online communication and assured novice users that the brave new (virtual) world was not the hostile, technologically complex landscape they feared.
It worked. Email quickly supplanted “snail mail” as the preferred means of written communication.
The tendency, then, is to think of email as a linear improvement — a step up the evolutionary ladder. But this overlooks a salient point. Other than wiping out personal mail, email has had almost no impact.
As a marketing channel, it’s been an unmitigated disaster, with microscopic response and conversion rates. There’s also been a backlash in the form of spam rules and filters. And many email accounts exist solely to capture the daily plethora of pleas for purchase.
It turns out that the initial comparison of the two types of mail was flawed. You can’t compare tangible apples to virtual oranges — and yet we continue to do so. Imagine if billboards made their way online. (Oh wait, that’s how we all first found out about Netflix, in the form of ubiquitous display ads and pop-ups.)
Abandon your cart, three-quarters of ye who enter here
We’re seeing a similar phenomenon in the hand-wringing over widespread cart abandonment among online retailers.
The figures are sobering indeed. An estimated 60 percent to 80 percent of items placed in online shopping carts are never purchased.
Those numbers evoke an apocalyptic image. The aisles in a near-deserted supermarket are clogged with abandoned, half-filled carts. A lone shopper tries to navigate the clutter while the proprietor sobs in a corner.
That vision is comically absurd. And the problem, as with the flawed comparison of email to “snail mail,” starts with the entrenched analogy. To ease users’ comfort level, early online retailers appropriated the term cart along with the iconography and established the false notion that shopping via the internet was a linear improvement: It’s the same as shopping in a store — only better!
In truth, shopping online is not the same as shopping in a store — nor is it unequivocally better. Like email, e-retail has limitations, as well as advantages. (Ever try on a pair of pants online?)
So rather than take an either/or attitude toward different channels, marketers need to consider a recombinant approach that cherry-picks the best of each channel and mitigates the worst.